The 8 Limbs of Yoga Explained: A Guide to Living a Meaningful Life

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The yoga 8 limbs are a set of guidelines that help us live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a moral compass and teach us how to live in harmony with ourselves and others. In this blog post, we will explore each of the eight limbs in-depth and learn how they can help us live a more fulfilling life!

If you’re looking for guidance on how to live your best life, look no further than the 8 limbs of yoga. These teachings can help you find inner peace and happiness, both on your own and with others. Read on to learn more!

(As a side note, if you would like to dive deeper into the eight limbs of yoga, my book recommendation is The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy).

What Are The Yoga 8 Limbs?

Yoga is an ancient teaching that practices not only physical postures (asanas) but also breath control (pranayama), relaxation, diet, positive thinking, and meditation. The goal of yoga is to unite the body, mind, and spirit to promote physical and mental well-being.

The yoga 8 limbs are a framework of an eightfold path for living a purposeful and ethical life.

1) Yama – universal moral code

2) Niyama – personal observances

3) Asana – yoga postures

4) Pranayama – breath control

5) Pratyahara – sense withdrawal

6) Dharana – single pointed concentration

7) Dhyana – meditation

8) Samadhi – superconscious state

When all 8 limbs are consciously practiced, they lead to enlightenment and self-realization.

yoga 8 limbs infographic

Yoga Sutras and Yoga Philosophy for Beginners

If you’re new to yoga, the Sanskrit terms and philosophical concepts can be intimidating. However, understanding the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the underlying philosophy can help you to get more out of your practice.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a collection of 196 short aphorisms that form the basis of yoga philosophy. They were written by the sage Patanjali around 400 BCE, and they outline the path to liberation from suffering.

The key concepts in the Yoga Sutras are the eight limbs of yoga, which include things like meditation and ethical living, as well as the five principles of hatha yoga (the physical practice of yoga). In addition, there are three basic principles that underlie all yoga practice: ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), and aparigraha (non-grasping).

By understanding these concepts, you can deepen your practice and find greater peace and satisfaction in your life.

Ashtanga Is Sanskrit For Eight Limbs

The term “ashtanga” translates as “eight limbs”, referring to the eight aspects of yoga practice outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. However, ashtanga yoga is perhaps most well-known for its asanas, or postures. The ashtanga system includes a set sequence of asanas that are performed in a flowing, dynamic style. This system was designed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Ashtanga yoga is an intense and physically demanding practice, but it can be extremely rewarding for those who are willing to commit to the discipline.

Definitely check out my detailed guide for Ashtanga yoga beginners if you are new to Ashtanga yoga and looking for more information.

Yama, this first of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Yama (1st limb) is about your personal relationships with others 

Yama is the first limb of yoga and it is about your personal relationships with others. The word Yama means “restraint” or “self-control”.

There are five Yamas:

  1. Ahimsa (non-violence, non-harming)
  2. Satya (truthfulness, nonlying)
  3. Asteya (non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (continence, sexual restraint)
  5. Aparigraha (non-greed)

Ahimsa is about causing no harm to others either through thought, word, or deed. Satya is about being honest with yourself and others. To practice Asteya is about not taking anything that doesn’t belong to you. Brahmacharya is about controlling your senses. Aparigraha is about detachment from material things.

When you practice the Yamas, you are working on developing qualities of character that will help you to be a better person both in your personal relationships and in the world at large.

Niyama, the second of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Niyama (2nd limb) is about your personal relationship with yourself 

Niyama, the second limb of yoga, is about your personal relationship with yourself. It includes the practices of cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, and self-surrender. Niyama is not about perfection; it’s about becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and making choices that are in alignment with your highest self.

There are five Niyamas:

  1. Sauca (purity, cleanliness)
  2. Santosha (contentment)
  3. Tapas (austerity, heat)
  4. Svathyahara (self-study)
  5. Ishvaripranidhana (dedication to the Lord)

Niyama is a process of self-transformation that leads to inner peace and harmony. As you practice Niyama, you will develop a deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world. You will also find that Niyama supports and enhances your physical practice of yoga. by promoting health and well-being. When you live in accordance with Niyama, you create an environment that is conducive to your own evolution and the evolution of all beings.

Asana, the third of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Asana (3rd limb) is about the physical practice of yoga 

Asana is the third limb of yoga as set out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Asana literally means “seat”, and refers to the practice of physical postures or poses. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states that asana should be “steady and comfortable” (Sutra II.46), meaning that it should be possible to maintain the position without strain or discomfort. The purpose of asana is not just physical exercise, but to prepare the body for meditation by stilling the fluctuations of the mind (citta-vrtti-nirodha). When the body is at ease and the mind is calm, we are better able to focus on our innermost nature, which is pure consciousness. While asana is often associated with dynamic “flow” classes, it can also be practiced in a more gentle and static way, as long as the asanas are performed with awareness and mindfulness.

Pranayama, the fourth of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Pranayama (4th limb) is about controlling the breath 

Pranayama is the fourth limb of yoga. It is often translated as “breath control,” but a more accurate translation would be “life force control.” Pranayama is about controlling the breath in order to control the life force. 

When we control the breath, we can control the prana, or life force. prana is what animates the body and keeps us alive. By controlling the prana, we can healthfully influence the mind and the body. 

Pranayama is not just about breathing exercises or holding the breath for a long time. Rather, it is about controlling the movement of prana through the body with the breath. There are many different pranayama techniques, each of which has a different effect on the body and mind. 

Pranayama is an essential tool for yogis seeking to master their practice. By controlling the breath, they can control the prana, and ultimately create health and balance in the mind and body.

Pratyahara, the fifth of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Pratyahara (5th limb) is about withdrawing the senses from the external world

Pratyahara is the 5th limb of yoga and it is about withdrawing the senses from external stimuli. In other words, it is the practice of turning inward and focus on the internal world. The goal of pratyahara is to develop inner awareness and to be able to control the mind. When the mind is controlled, it is easier to focus on the breath and to be present in the moment. Pratyahara is a necessary step on the path to meditation because it helps to quiet the mind. It is also said that pratyahara leads to nirvana, which is a state of complete freedom from sufferings.

Dharana, the sixth of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Dharana (6th limb) is about concentration and focus 

Dharana, the 6th limb of yoga, is all about concentration and focus. The word dharana comes from the Sanskrit root dhr, which means to hold or to support.

In dharana practice, we learn to hold our attention on a single point of focus, without letting our mind wander to the outside world. This can be done by focusing on the breath, a mantra, or a visual object.

By regularly practicing dharana, we develop the ability to concentrate and focus more easily both on and off the yoga mat.

We begin to see that we have the power to direct our own attention, rather than being controlled by our thoughts and emotions. As we become more adept at dharana, we may find that we are able to maintain our focus for longer periods of time, eventually leading to the state of dhyana, or meditative absorption.

Dhyana, the seventh of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Dhyana (7th limb) is about meditation 

This seventh stage can be done with or without a particular object of focus. The goal of dhyana is to still the mind and achieve inner peace. In order to do this, we need to practice dhyana regularly.

With regular practice, we will find that it becomes easier to still our mind and achieve deeper levels of mediation.

As we progress in our practice, we may even find that we can enter into dhyana at any time and place, regardless of external distractions.

Samadhi, the eighth of the 8 Limbs of Yoga

Samadhi (8th limb) is about enlightenment or complete absorption in the divine

Samadhi is the final stage or final step in the yogic path, and it is often considered to be the goal of the practice. In samadhi, the yogi experiences complete absorption in the divine, or enlightenment. This state is said to be Beyond the Categories of Mind, and it is a deeply mystical experience that is difficult to put into words.

While it is sometimes called “union with God,” samadhi is not a religious experience; rather, it is a state of pure consciousness that can be accessed by anyone, regardless of their beliefs. In samadhi, the self is completely dissolved and there is only pure awareness.

This state is incredibly peaceful and blissful, and it can lead to profound insight and wisdom. For those who are seeking samadhi, the Eight Limbs of Yoga provides a clear path to follow. By practicing the first seven limbs diligently, the yogi will eventually be able to reach the state of samadhi.

How can you incorporate the yoga 8 limbs into your yoga practice?

Yoga is much more than just physical postures, or asanas. In fact, asanas are just one of the eight limbs of yoga, which also include yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).

When incorporated into your practice, these eight limbs can help you to develop a more comprehensive and well-rounded approach to yoga.

For example, the yamas and niyamas help to encourage qualities such as moderation, self-awareness, and inner peace, while pranayama and pratyahara can help to improve focus and concentration. As you begin to integrate all eight limbs into your practice, you may find that your experience of yoga becomes deeper, richer, and more fulfilling.

How can you incorporate the yoga 8 limbs into your teaching?

The yoga 8 limbs are a comprehensive system for living a meaningful and purposeful life. As a yoga teacher, we can help our students to incorporate the eight limbs into their lives both in and out of yoga class.

The first limb, yama, deals with our relationships with others. We can incorporate yama into our teaching by creating a safe and supportive environment where all students feel welcome and respected.

The second limb, niyama, deals with our relationship with ourselves. We can help our students to develop self-awareness and self-care through regular practice and meditation.

The third limb, asana, focuses on physical postures. We can incorporate asana into our teaching by leading students through a variety of yoga poses that challenge the body and mind.

The fourth limb, pranayama, deals with breath control. We can help our students to develop breath awareness through pranayama techniques such as nostril breathing and alternate nostril breathing.

The fifth limb, pratyahara, deals with sense withdrawal. We can help our students to develop focus and concentration by incorporating pratyahara techniques into our teaching.

The sixth limb, dharana, deals with one-pointed concentration. We can help our students to develop dharana by leading them through a variety of meditation practices.

The seventh limb, dhyana, deals with meditative absorption. We can help our students to develop dhyana by leading them through a variety of deep relaxation techniques.

Finally, the eighth limb, samadhi, is about enlightenment or complete absorption in the divine. We can help our students to develop samadhi through regular yoga practice and meditation.

By incorporating yoga philosophy into our teaching, we can help our students achieve personal growth, and make a conscious effort to live more meaningful and purposeful lives both on and off the mat.

How do you remember the 8 limbs of yoga?

There are many ways to remember the eight limbs of yoga. One popular method is to think of them as steps on a journey.

The first four limbs – yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama – are known as the outer limbs, and they deal with our relationship to the world around us.

The next four – pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi – are known as the inner limbs, and they deal with our relationship to ourselves.

Each step on this journey is important, but we must not get too attached to any one of them. For example, we should not get so focused on our asanas that we forget about the other limbs. Instead, we should see each step as an opportunity to grow in our practice.

By keeping all eight limbs in balance, we can achieve the ultimate goal of yoga: self-transcendence.

What does yama and niyama mean?

In yoga, the practice of yama and niyama is often referred to as the “moral code.” These two concepts represent a set of guiding principles that can help us to live a more meaningful and virtuous life.

Yamas are typically concerned with our relationships with others, and include principles such as non-violence and truthfulness. Niyamas, on the other hand, focus on our relationship with ourselves, and include practices such as self-discipline and contentment.

By adhering to the yamas and niyamas, we can develop a greater sense of harmony in our lives – both within ourselves and with those around us.


The 8 limbs of yoga provide a roadmap for living a meaningful and purposeful life. They teach us how to live in harmony with ourselves and others, act with integrity, and find our true north. If you’re looking for guidance on yoga explained and how to live your best life, look no further than the 8 limbs of yoga. Have you tried incorporating any of these principles into your own life?

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